Boise State and I had one big thing in common when entering this game. We both were experiencing our first game at a higher level. For me, this was my first game as a student at UW-Madison. For Boise State, this was their first game playing a Division I-A team as a member of the same division. I suppose you could say that we were both freshmen. My brother, who got all of us tickets in the senior section, made that fact abundantly clear by chanting, “FRESHMAN!”, while pointing at me. My face turned a Badger red.
On the field, the Broncos came into a steamy Camp Randall ranked 117 out of 117 possible teams at the time. They weren’t what one would call a “powerhouse” team. I remember being down near the sidelines and watching them warm up. A father and his young son approached the same area where there was a Boise State player within five feet of where I was standing. The father pointed to the player and said to his son, “See…that is what a real football player looks like up close.” I thought to myself, “real football player? Yeah, maybe when he graduates eighth grade.” I mean really – this was Boise State. This was the perfect team for Wisconsin to play in order to bounce back from the Syracuse debacle two weeks earlier.
Or was it? Boise State played like a top ten team that day. The opening play for the Badgers resulted in a fumble returned for six. The score was 21-17 in favor of Wisconsin with about three minutes remaining. The situation seemed comfortable enough because the Broncos were punting. However, with little to lose, they successfully faked the punt and surged to the Wisconsin one-yard line. On the next play, they scored flipping the score to 24-21 Boise State.
My brother left along with a few other fans. The situation was grim. The Broncos, a team that just lost the week before to a Division I-AA team at home by forty, was on the verge of a tremendous upset. But, QB Mike Samuel for the Badgers had other plans. He led the team on an amazing drive that was capped by his own power move into the endzone with 49 seconds remaining. Wisconsin held on to win the game 28-24.
Many Badger coaches, players, and fans found the result of this game to be more beneficial than a blowout victory. It taught this young bunch of Badgers how to finish a game in tense situations. As it turned out, this lesson would come in handy many times during the season…